A Restored ’60s Home on Lake Oswego Channels Swanky “Mad Men” Vibes

A Restored ’60s Home on Lake Oswego Channels Swanky “Mad Men” Vibes

By Brian Libby / Photos by Jeremy Bittermann
With wall-to-wall wood and panoramic views, this modish midcentury sets the tone for relaxation just minutes from downtown Portland.

For more than half a century, one of the best sites in Portland’s most picturesque suburb, Lake Oswego, kept a very low profile. But after Emerick Architects renovated it last year, the home is set up to celebrate. 

"The whole idea is that it’s a vacation," says architect Melody Emerick. "We’ve got the cool bar downstairs, and we’ve got the hot tub that was craned over the house so it can overlook the water."

Emerick also recalls the client’s overriding design brief, a tongue-in-cheek, two-word phrase that might have come from a Rat Pack member: "fabbo paddo."

The three-story home, which keeps a low profile at its entrance before sloping downward, is clad in basalt quarried from the site itself.

Designed by Kenneth G. Walter of Edmundson, Kochendoerfer, and Kennedy Architects and Engineers of Portland, this modernist 6,000-square-foot, six-bedroom house was completed in 1963. It’s perched atop a sloped outcropping that stretches further out over the water than any of its neighbors, but it keeps a low profile from the street, with its lower floors hidden.

Prior to the renovation, the home was owned by a single family who kept its decidedly ’60s ambiance intact: walnut and cherry wood paneling stretches from wall to wall, and rocky basalt surfaces flow from the outside in.

The home’s interior envelops visitors in walnut and cherry wood panels.

In 2017, the property was purchased as a second home by John Boiler, cofounder of the Los Angeles advertising agency 72 and Sunny. The residence offered a chance for the Oregon native and his wife to return to their roots and spend time with their daughter as she attended the University of Oregon.

"We stalked it for a couple years," says John. "It had such extraordinary qualities, and the potential of expanding the kitchen and dining room onto a porch overlooking the lake. It was not conspicuous when viewed from the road or the lake, and it’s sympathetic to the surrounding landscape."

The home is perched on an outcropping above Oswego Lake, with its own boat dock at the bottom of the property.

The Emerick Architects renovation was all about celebrating the home’s existing Mad Men style while making a few architectural changes to foster more openness.

The design team enclosed a portion of the upstairs deck to create a new dining room, and they removed a wall to join the space with the kitchen. They also enclosed the lower outdoor porch facing the water to create a larger master bedroom. In the reconfigured lower level, a new wet bar encourages socialization, and a storage room became a bunk room to accommodate more family and friends.

Emerick Architects turned an outdoor deck into a cantilevered dining room, and they opened the walled-off kitchen to the rest of the house.

The architects also endeavored to restore and extend finishes—be it the existing tongue-in-groove hemlock ceiling, or the new basalt walls added to the dining room.

"The basalt was harvested from the site when they did foundation work. That doesn’t happen very often," says Melody Emerick. The designers also extended the home’s walnut paneling to the entire lower level, where it didn’t exist before. "The panel-tailored look was such a great feature, so we played off it and brought it to many places," she adds.

As with the dining room upstairs, a portion of the lower-level deck was claimed for a new glass-walled recreation area.

The family made the residence their full-time home this summer, and the leafy neighborhood and lakeside setting have helped ease quarantine life.

"The floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall glass makes for an amazing experience of living among the trees," John says. "It’s a very interesting multilevel design that creates so many different spaces and experiences where you can always find enough room for a group conversation, but you also have plenty of nooks and crannies to hide away."

In the living room, the hemlock ceiling extends beyond the full-height glass walls, but not so far as to obstruct the panoramic views.

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Emerick believes the best projects come from the best marriages of design and client, like this one. "They’re the perfect people to have it," she says of John and his family. "They love to go down on the lake and jump in and paddleboard and drive their boats. The home is just an extension of the fun personality they have, I think. But they have a really keen eye for design, and set an expectation that it’s got to all pull together—it has to be executed beautifully. It’s got to feel right. The conversations we had were just a blast."

Related Reading:

21 Midcentury Renovations in Portland That Maintain Their Northwest Charm

An Actor-Turned-Designer Couple Build a Dream Home in Oregon

Project Credits:

Architect: Emerick Architects / @emerickarchitects

Builder: Right Angle Construction

Structural Engineer: Grummel Engineering

Landscape Architect: Lango Hansen

Cabinetry: Cardinale Fine Cabinetry

Upholstery: Revive Designs

Photography: Jeremy Bittermann / JBSA

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